New Congressional map brings changes for county polls

Updated Dec 06, 2015

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, will boost his profile for a potential future statewide run and Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, will add a few beachfront Republicans to his minority-dominated Democratic district under the new congressional map approved by the Florida Supreme Court last week.

The new map brings some significant changes to Palm Beach County while maintaining the overall partisan balance of power with three Democrat-leaning districts and one swing district.

Assuming it withstands an expected federal court challenge by Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, the new map puts the homes of District 21 Rep. Deutch and District 22 Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, into a redrawn District 21. After Frankel and Deutch made an August pledge not to run against each other, Deutch was expected to run in the new District 21 and Frankel in the new District 22, allowing each to remain with a majority of their current constituents.

The northern border of the new District 22 is about 20 miles from Frankel’s home and extends deep into Broward County. Deutch lives about a mile from the edge of the new District 22. The U.S. Constitution does not require House members to live in the districts they represent.

Running in the new District 22 will require Deutch to introduce himself to about 400,000 new constituents. Most of them live in Broward County, which is part of the expensive Miami-Fort Lauderdale media market rather than the West Palm Beach market where Deutch is more familiar.

That’s a pricey challenge for Deutch — but also a big opportunity. Deutch, 49, briefly entertained thoughts of a 2016 Senate run and is likely to be in the conversation for future statewide races. Making himself better known in Broward County, which has the highest number of registered Democrats in Florida, will broaden his base if he ever decides to run statewide.

The other noteworthy change for Palm Beach County is the extension of Hastings’ District 20 from the mainland of Riviera Beach to Singer Island. That adds two Republican-leaning coastal precincts to Hastings district, which will remain dominated by Democrats and minority voters.

Erosion and beach renourishment are big federal issues for Palm Beach County. Under the new map, county beaches will have four congressional representatives instead of the current two.

Under the existing map, beaches north of Palm Beach Inlet are in District 18, held by Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter. Beaches from the town of Palm Beach to the Broward County line are in Frankel’s District 22. Under the new map, northern beaches will remain in District 18 and southern beaches in District 22, but Districts 20 and 21 will also get some oceanfront territory.

— New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be in Palm Beach on Monday for a fundraiser at the home of telecommunications entrepreneur John Scarpa. The host committee includes part-time Palm Beach County resident Kenneth Langone, the New York investor and Home Depot co-founder who is one of Christie’s major financial backers.

Aside from home-state favorites Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, Christie has been the top recipient of Palm Beach County Republican presidential campaign cash. Through Sept. 30, Christie and his America Leads PAC had collected $216,750 from contributors with Palm Beach County addresses.

Dan Bongino, the former Secret Service agent and Maryland congressional candidate who moved to Martin County this year, continues to weigh a 2016 Republican U.S. Senate bid.

Bongino wrote a book about his Secret Service experiences and frequently appears on CNN, Fox News and other outlets as a law enforcement expert. He’s also maintained a candidate-style travel schedule, speaking to Republican and tea party groups in The Villages, Fort Myers and Jacksonville as well as in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.

Bongino had eyed a run for Murphy’s open Palm Beach-Treasure Coast District 18 congressional seat, but instead has become a supporter of decorated war vet Brian Mast’s GOP campaign.

Bongino says he’s “seriously considering” the Senate race because the Republicans running — Reps. Ron DeSantis and David Jolly, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and defense contractor Todd Wilcox — have only generated “tepid interest” so far. Bongino says he’ll decide by late January or early February.